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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2014 Baseball HOF Class: A new system, a non-moral standard devised

Greg Maddux: Dealing from HOF Strength

 My Current 2014 HOF Class Selections and Reasons:

Greg Maddux - wins aside, he compiled a healthy WAR in his career. Won on great teams, and the Cubs. 1st ballot is a no brainer.
Tom Glavine - same token on wins (305-203). He benefited from a wider strike zone and used it to great advantage. Teammates should go in together - John Smoltz will join soon enough.

(Edit and Note: Baseball Reference has Tom at 74.0 WAR using Runs Allowed method; Fangraphs (based off FIP, which is weighted on underlying metrics such as Ks, BB, HRs) has him at 64.3 WAR. At Fangraphs, Tom had 12 seasons above 3 WAR, with low strikeouts per IP lifetime, and 3.95 FIP ERA, whereas his actual ERA was 3.54 and his lifetime BABIP was a very favorable .280. To me, if you can stick around to pitch 14 years of 200+ IP, that is Hall worthy in the teeth of the prevalent offensive boom. He was able to parlay all that from a pitching platform of not getting all those juicy Ks while keeping it in the ball in the park. Craftiness in this case, deserves such a reward.)

Roger Clemens - controversial now, but no doubt, the most dominating guy on the bump in either league for many seasons.
Mike Mussina - a very, very consistent guy. Pitched solely out of the AL East, and amassed both a substantial standard record (270-153) and quality sabermetrics record (82.7 WAR at Baseball Reference). 
Curt Shilling - as outspoken against guys like Clemens, he got it done when it mattered. A money pitcher, who now has, less money (due to a bad business investment.)
Barry Bonds - Best hitter of his generation. Not really even that close. (See below.) Never suspended for PEDs, even while he was playing under close monitoring. His legacy as a bad guy (and interview) pretty much relegates him to being on the outside looking in. Pete Rose is his much lighter-hitting companion.
Larry Walker - Colorado was the best thing for his numbers. That said, he was a damn good hitter. Very good RF for a number of seasons, and it is not his fault, anymore than it was Ott's or Ruth's, that he destroyed his home haven.
Mike Piazza - He compiled a .300+ BA as a catcher for a career. Slugging, check. He was no gold glover, but he put on the tools of ignorance, and proved you can survive there for a decade plus.
Craig Biggio - Assured inclusion this time. 3000 hits. Those counting stats, his overall production, at 2B and versatility is his ticket to Cooperstown.
Edgar Martinez - As mostly a DH, he still played over 500 games as a 3B. Wore out pitchers with .418 OBP, routinely 40 doubles, 20 jacks, and 90 walks. Team construction in Seattle was not his fault; he could have been a 1B for, at least, 500 games if the Mariners didn't constantly add the David Seguis or John Oleruds of the world to the equation. But DH was available. And he was lethally suited for the role.

Edgar Martinez: A .418 OBP Machine.

From Fangraphs the Entire List Eligible for the Hall by Their WAR Calculation:

Name WAR
Barry Bonds* 164.1
Roger Clemens* 139.9
Greg Maddux* 114.3
Curt Schilling* 83.5
Mike Mussina* 82.3
Jeff Bagwell 80.3
Frank Thomas 72.4
Rafael Palmeiro 70.0
Larry Walker* 69.0
Tim Raines 66.3
Mark McGwire 66.3
Edgar Martinez* 65.6
Craig Biggio* 65.3
Tom Glavine* 63.9
Alan Trammell 63.7
Mike Piazza* 63.6
Sammy Sosa 60.4
Fred McGriff 57.2
Jeff Kent 56.6
Luis Gonzalez 55.3
Jack Morris 52.7
Moises Alou 48.2
Kenny Rogers 47.2
Don Mattingly 40.7
Ray Durham 30.3
Lee Smith 27.6
Hideo Nomo 24.0
Paul Lo Duca 17.8
Richie Sexson 17.2
Sean Casey 16.1
Jacque Jones 13.1
Mike Timlin 13.1
J.T. Snow 12.6
Eric Gagne 11.9
Todd Jones 11.2
Armando Benitez 9.0

Baseball writers with their precious votes will not agree with me. I'm right on these selections, this year.

You may notice I selected the top 5 WAR producers, specifically Bonds and Clemens outpaced their compatriots in the game by a wide margin. But neither will get in because of the turmoil of the PED scandal. The sportswriters, who are voting, are like women who just got cheated on, or dumped for a hotter woman, or divorced from their once well-loved husband after he cheated on her with a less attractive option (this happens in real life, unlike Hollywood.) They duly want revenge; want groveling; and a measure of superiority over these selfish louts called baseball players.

Meanwhile, Maddux is the 'faithful' one; and he's the surest lock there is in this entire group.

After Mussina, there is gap. I jump down to Walker, Biggio, Martinez, Glavine, and Piazza. For good reasons: Walker is an lifetime RF, who distinguished himself enough with the glove and stuck at the position even in his twilight. Biggio played catcher, centerfield, left field and second base.  That's versatility, especially going from a catcher, to speed positions, and deserves its due. Piazza - catcher, primarily - was a hitting machine. Martinez, again, played the hot corner and raked. Glavine as discussed above.

So all of these are more worthy than Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Fred McGriff, Jeff Bagwell, or Don Mattingly. Or even the sentimental choice in Jack Morris (who I really do like - but well...Veteran's committee can do that).

Tim Raines looks the part until you realize he amassed more than half of his WAR in just 5 seasons (1983-1987). This is not problematic, per say, but look at his 1990s. Does that speak HOF? He might get in around 2017, or a bit later. He too has character issues from those white lines that nabbed guys like Lonnie Smith in the 1980s.

So, the remaining six I left out are all 1B/DH types. If you look up their numbers they have various ranges, but if I showed you a .298/.385/.520 lifetime statistical line, could you guess which one is above or below that? And by how much?
  • Would you punish Palmeiro for not being a peak guy - but a consistent 35-110 guy with good OBP, but burdened with the 1st HOF career tied to a steroids suspension? 
So, I was not going to split hairs over this huge grouping, this year. I think 3-4 first sackers are worthy of inclusion someday, maybe in 2015-16. But those above I selected, to me, had the virtual locks by the positions played and stats achieved.

1B, again, is not the hardest position to play. It is the easiest. It is why all of these guys got huge numbers there. A 1B with a .500 plus slugging and a .375OBP is about All-star level/HOF worthy if we turned back the clock to the 1960s and 1970s. And these guys aside from McGriff and Mattingly benefited from the juiced ball theory I feel people constantly leave out of their equations. (And yes, Walker had plenty of juice in his ballpark - Colorado set the humidor conditions wrong, initially. Furthering the point of a 'juiced ball' era.)

But I had 10 votes, and took my logical 10 based on performances, position criteria, and differentiation from the pack. I could not immediately see clear reasons why any first sackers should be in over the rest of my selections, this year. And that speaks to the problem of the HOF.

The Non-Moral Argument to the Baseball HOF

Meanwhile, I think it's uniquely disturbing that people base their votes on baseball's HOF, which, in theory, is about best performers while in the game - statistically speaking - and not at all about the best human beings.

If we want a HOF of good characters, high integrity, blah, blah blah, THEN we should start anew and have a separate, and new HOF. I only say "blah, blah, blah," because what defines this quality is amorphic as to what era you judge it from.
  • Is late 19th century baseball operating morality code than disallowed minorities, improperly hued, the baseline?
  •  Is it the mid-1930s version of this code, upon creating this special grouping of HOF players, voted on by well-known sportswriters like Grantland Rice, who was fairly overt in his racism, the next hurdle?
  • Is it the mid-20th century, that still didn't have too much problem with boozing, womanizing, or drugging, even if it were known (as media access often required a Gee Whiz Sports writing), our next leap?
  • Is subtle cheating (spitters, frozen balls, amphetamines popping) from the 1960s-1970s ok to do, if they were 'good' guys according the new media guys, who picked out their favorites?
  • Or is the 1990s tinkering with the ball, pumping iron, shrinking ballparks, growing paychecks and swelling, 'roided muscles the creme brulee we should talk from, if sportswriters wrote more positive pieces, and trumpeted the stats we wanted to hear about?
  • Maybe we politically correct all discussions? Because we know what is right, now?
Roger: Dodger of PED suspensions

Whatever you do, it should be consistent and fair and simple. That is why the ONLY measure is what took place between the lines. Call me what you will, I am not going to parse out which guy is a better human being based on sportswriter's vendettas, or dislikes, or run-ins with ballplayers that are human and flawed.

Trying to elaborately devise a methodology to test all ballplayers retroactively - is he a steroid witch or not - without a 100% fool proof PED test in the present, seems oddly hopeless to my way of thinking about it.

If you technically were never caught with PEDs in your bloodstream by MLB, as Bonds NEVER was suspended, even after the first PED suspensions on April 3, 2005 came out, then how can you logically dismiss him now? Because he's an obstructionist of justice? Or a liar?

You can despise him all you like, but you should be consistent on your analysis, else you travel a slippery slope...it is the reason we have a messed up HOF, as it stands now. And those, that were overlooked until they died, i.e., Ron Santo (70.9 fWAR).

What happens on the field is one arena; and what happens in life outside the final out is quite another.

President Bill Clinton. most historians consider him a 1st-2nd tier president, if you look at that logically. But his womanizing does not make him as appealing as a human being, at least as he left the office, nearly impeached. Bill lied about his relationships... JFK. God rest, had the same issues with women, and is praised more out of respect more than accomplishment. FDR. Women issues to the very end, and still top 5-7 U.S. Presidents. And that list can go on, and on. Their accomplishments in their expert field should not be undermined by their flawed human relationships. Because, then, many of us need to reassess our very nature.

But this method is also how you can divorce one criteria from another. Because what a guy does to achieve success in one arena, should not be tied to what he does outside that arena, even if, it allegedly helps him to achieve undue results. Because until we know the direct amount of help, we are just surmising based on broad premises we barely understand the science and results behind.

Social Media & Personal Responsibility

I think too, ALL of us today, have tended to blend our lives into this social media petri dish for all to see online. It leads us to sometimes believe that our sports stars, even when they are eagerly willing (in tweeting), are really just like us, only richer, and therefore, available for our personal chidings. That their failings are fun, consumable pieces of information and thus require our witty commentaries. And so, these typically labeled 'special people' behave accordingly, lying, lashing out, and fighting back against being this pinata of social critique, often as not, without the entire story behind their lives as a sports icon/athlete. And their failings, very public in nature, as any athletes or entertainer will undoubtedly succumb to, someday, will outstrip or trump their glories. So they MUST super achieve constantly. No room for actual humanity in that equation. "We don't pay you for that," a fan now very aware of the billion dollar nature of the beast - often to the nickel - responds with derision.

This is wrong. 100% dead wrong.

Or, more recently, such athletes are held to some very high/higher moral standards because of their public nature. (Thank marketing for that - and those advertising revenues generated.) Again, this is totally wrong. That type of social norm (depending on where you live in this world applies differently, as not people see things like alike) applies really to an athlete's basic privilege of playing the game. They are not paid for moral decisions or likeability, or should not be. You don't pay a neurologist for tax advice. You don't pay a plumber for his translation skills if he was at the United Nations. And you don't pay athletes for their personal life choices - aside for those to which they agree to. (And even that was once heavily weighted to the ownership class, and their agents (GMs), in baseball's case. Instead of a fair contract, they got a lopsided deal until 1976. Since then, the owners have been looking to circumvent gains made; were guilty of collusion in the 1980s; and waited, patiently, to spring to action on the recent steroids scandal. Don't be fooled, they knew.)  

But to want to affect change or to stop this problem, those ownerships could have suspended these athletes "1-and-done" AND paid off their remaining contracts, foregoing any future playing benefits. (If the MLBPA would have collectively bargained away such rights. Player reps would have to convince their cohorts it is best for the game.) That measure would have rid any acquisition of "cheaters" - as we saw with recent healthy contracts for Marlon Byrd, Jhonny Peralta, and likely now, Nelson Cruz. Or you, the rabid fan, can stop going to all games involving any and all unethical louts that set a bad examples - and tell your kids all about the right way to be in the game. Until those examples are set, we should corral our MORAL HIGH HORSE. Because we are not making a very strong case to stop such behaviors by our own ethical hypocrisy. If anything, we undermine the premise "cheating is bad" by rewarding it later with high contracts (which too have their risks, but until you stop the practice, it does not show any ethical commitment.)

But I don't think that's the answer to the problem. It's draconian and arbitrary and even, the appeals will be lengthy, and the evidence has to reach the level of beyond a reasonable doubt. No, the question to answer rightly is HOF performance, solely.  It side steps the issue of enhancements. Because it is only about what it takes on the field...

The NEW Hall of Fame: A Trial by Stats

As suggested, the Hall of Fame is a different matter. Because moral judgments are inherently flawed, and biased by a personal value system. So we need a set criteria based on a thorough system.

You see, you will have selection bias, and select only information that matters to you, and discard the rest. I acknowledge I am guilty of it (see my choices), and even if you say you are not, then you are, actually. (You are human and flawed. And therefore, at some moment you have been biased solely by your limited amount of time to gather complete understanding of a person/or situation/or object. We make generalities to survive, else we would drive ourselves nuts. Therefore, you are biased.)

I suggest a new system based solely on numerical analysis. Adjusted to the standards of the offensive eras created within that system. Does not overvalue one era, or group, over any another. It will be sabermetric-based; detailed in its analysis; and ties directly to statistics and inflicts as little personal bias as any system can designed by such flawed humans. Therefore, if set correctly, only the highest level of achievement will be praised.

Of course, the current HOF has prestige. But old institutions outlast their usefulness, and new ones come along. This will happen in baseball like OBP replaced BA; xFIP has replaced ERA; WAR replaced any statistical variant that incorporated a hodge-podging of RBI, HR, SB, W, ERA, IP, or Runs. It inevitably comes. It will again.

We love asterisks, it seems. So, we will include a review of all that achieve the level of HOF, but is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a panel of baseball experts of enhancement by strictly artificial means, doping, cheating in baseball, amphetamines, if any of these or obviously artificial methods seems most prevalent to their statistical accumulation, outside the ways we know existed in all eras. (Read: not sportswriters, but historians and analysts that take each reported case up as if they were the U.S. Supreme Court. I'd personally say a rotating group of 9 fellows at this new HOF. Two-year review cycle - and therefore, an appeal by said HOF candidate, to present evidence to overturn a "guilty" opinion. In essence, a fair review where a player (or his legal representative) can produce contrary/mitigating evidence that refutes or colors a "guilty by enhancement" ruling.)

Even then, those of guilt will just be included with the dreaded asterisk. We don't apply this without logic to new HOF. New system, analyzing a far different game across seven scores of time (140 years) means I am not allowing the current/ongoing scandal to ruin this HALL at the start.

Managers and other worthy candidates will be under a different methodology, yet to be determined here.

That's my baseball HOF rant.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Masahiro Tanaka to the Detroit Tigers: Is the plan for Dombrowski & Towers to Improve by Risk Analysis?

Masahiro Tanaka: The Next Ace of Detroit???

First Dombrowski Domino: Miguel Cabrera Can Deliver At 1st Base

Last week, Detroit and Texas pulled off one of those trades that shook the MLB world because it made so much sense. Prince Fielder to Texas and Ian Kinsler to Detroit, and Miguel Cabrera to first base, a place he stops by frequently en route to a .320 plus average with 5+ WAR. In that trade, Fielder moved to a hitter's haven; Kinsler provides decent 2B glove, good contact, and most importantly: a much shorter, less pricier commitment. Cabrera replacement at 3B potentially Nick Castellanos.

 Ian Kinsler vs. Prince Fielder Analysis @ Various Rates of Returns

Rate of Return 8%

Time 0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Year 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Value($M)
Ian Kinsler $16.0 $16.0 $14.0 $11.0 $11.0

Det Adj. Payroll $16.0 $14.8 $17.1 $13.5 $12.5 $4.1 $3.8 $81.8
Prince Fielder $24.0 $24.0 $24.0 $24.0 $24.0 $24.0 $24.0 $168.0
Detroit Pays TX

$6.0 $6.0 $6.0 $6.0 $6.0 $30.0
Texas Adj. Payroll $24.0 $22.2 $15.4 $14.3 $13.2 $12.3 $11.3 $112.8

Differential $M Prefers
Yr-W Ian Prince $Ian/WAR $Prince/WAR
5% 33.85 Detroit
0 3.5 5 4.57 4.80
6.50% 32.34
1 3 4 4.94 5.56
8% 30.95 Neutral
2 2.5 3.5 6.86 4.41
10% 29.28
3 2 3 6.75 4.76
12% 27.78 Texas
4 2 2.5 6.25 5.29

5 0 2 - 6.13

6 0 1.5 - 7.56

Total  13 21.5 6.29 5.24
The breakdown of the financials at various Rates of Returns shows the relative savings Detroit got and the potential upside from this domino falling in place. In real terms the savings is not $70M. Detroit depending on interest rates (the cost of capital and return rate expected for such risks) will be more in line to obtain only $31,000,000 in actual real savings at 8% Rate of Return.

Detroit will save the money, to be sure, but it hinges on how Prince declines or Ian declines. I made a very modest assumption on the fall off of Prince. I think he's start off well in Texas, all-star. Meanwhile, Ian will be about his normal rate of WAR, aside from one monster year in 2011. The differential of cost per WAR reflects Ian as a cheap front side option, whereas, Prince costs a bit more in those first years and his final years. Others peg it this way from MLB Trade Rumors:
  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs loves the trade for Detroit, as they escape the burden of Fielder's contract and replace him with a player Cameron feels will post a similar WAR total in 2014. Plus, he adds, the $76MM savings would be enough to potentiall add Curtis Granderson and Joe Nathan to the fold. "Kinsler, Granderson, and Nathan, or Prince Fielder? These aren’t even close," writes Cameron.
  • Cameron also analyzed the deal from the Rangers' point of view, and while he's not as quick to heap praise on Texas, he understands the thinking and doesn't consider it a loss for the team. GM Jon Daniels found a good way to move Kinsler and add a first baseman, and opened up a hole for someone who is expected to become a very good player, says Cameron, "...But it was an expensive trade to make, and no team has unlimited resources."

The Next Step: Japanese Import Lands in Detroit

Detroit can now do various things with that money saved. Owner and former minor leaguer Mike Ilitch, at 84, likely can't spend all his money made from pizzas, Little Caesar's, and other numerous ventures. So, he may have given permission to Dombrowski to go for broke on a few candidates: Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin Soo Choo, or Masahiro Tanaka.

Tanaka? Why? Tigers had plenty of pitching for they post season, they just came up short, partly due to Fielder.

Well, Max Scherzer, represented Scott Boras, is in his final arbitration/soon-to-walk year. Boras also represents Ellsbury and Choo, and once did Cano, now represented by Jay-Z's new agency. So, no matter what you will be dealing with either Boras, or the new Boras, who wants to bid up Cano to astronomical levels ($300 million over a decade!) Even the mighty Yankees balked.

Scherzer's extension will be based off his last two seasons. Boras will move the needle towards a 5-6 year deal at $25 million on a 30-year old pitcher, who has been durable and reliable, but is: 5 years older than the Masahiro Tanaka.

Tanaka was analyzed on this blog. At that moment, I felt $90-100 million felt about right. I have reconsidered that once you factor in the new $25M per team in TV MLB revenues, also discussed on this blog he's gonna be well over a $100 million dollar add option. The market is slim on top tier pitching as teams are generally risk-adverse to give up young pitchers who are evaluated as top-of-the-rotation possibilities, until their market prices (20M+/yr) drives them out of price range of mid-to-small market teams. Those teams then look for other top-tier prospects in return - pitching if possible - and then repeat the cycle as needed. 

The short of it on Tanaka: It is not necessarily more risky if you think Masahiro Tanaka and his 24-0 record in Japan and stuff can be a six-year-$150 million dollar deal, plausibly producing 30WAR in his prime years. Even at 20 WAR, while you  potentially overpay $44.6M, accounting for rate of return at 8%, that will be mostly negated by $31M in savings from the Fielder deal if you were Detroit in this example. If Tanaka lives up to Yu Darvish-lite comparisons, he's worth the $80 million bid and $70 million sign over 6 years.

That said, the upfront investment costs of $80M is substantial and a regular sign would provide unique savings too. But the New York Daily News puts it this way:
Masahiro Tanaka, a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, has what a teammate describes as a bulldog competitive nature and has drawn comparisons to Greg Maddux for his pitching precision. He threw an eye-popping 160 pitches in the only game he lost all season - Game 6 of the Japan Series - and then closed out the championship clincher the next night.

Several baseball folks said they could see Tanaka eventually scoring between $50-75 million, or more, for Rakuten in a posting fee and then getting perhaps $75 million more in a contract from his new team. That’d made him the priciest Japanese pitcher ever, passing Yu Darvish, who commanded a $51.7 million posting fee and a $60 million contract two winters ago.

For all that money, a club would be getting a pitcher who was 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA over seven seasons in Japan. Tanaka can “touch 97 (miles per hour) with his fastball and pitch around 93,” says a big-league scout sent to Japan last season to evaluate him.

The scout says Tanaka’s fastball is his best pitch of the six (fastball, curve, slider, changeup, cutter, splitter) he can throw.

Tanaka vs. Scherzer Financial Analysis

Masahiro Tanaka -

As you see, it ain't simple financially. But there are other motivations aside from just picking a relatively unknown to America, but obviously well-scouted Japanese pitcher, over a Cy Young award winner. That's leads to the final step.

The Final Step: Max Scherzer Traded back to Arizona

This one, cooked up by my zombie brain, takes place in a world with AZ President Kevin Towers being goaded a little more and then lubricated with alcohol. However, bare with me as I try to improve two teams to battle their nemeses in their respective leagues.

Detroit has 2013 Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer in his final season. He's now an ace, his xFIP (used for that Wins Above Replacement calculation) has always been mid 3's, but went down to a sparkling 3.16 last season. His stuff is every bit of that label - Ace.

So, his final season is gonna cost Detroit over $10M but maybe under $15M. Cheap. And extension would be undoubtedly be in the 5/6-year range for upwards of $150 million, especially since, an older Jason Vargas just got a 4-year deal at $32 million for being a 1-1.5 WAR/year pitcher. Scherzer's valuable floor, so far, is that of a 3WAR pitcher, while he just topped out at 6.4, according to Fangraphs. That range is part of the discussion used in comparing him to Masahiro Tanaka.

I think Scherzer is still at least a 20WAR pitcher for 6 seasons. Maybe a bit more (18-24 would not be implausible). However for this analysis, Arizona needs a 6WAR+ pitcher in the fold today, in 2014, if they are to match the payroll-is-no-object moves of the LA Dodgers, who just signed Dan Haren, ex-Arizona pitcher, and 2B Guerrero to friendly terms. Or San Francisco, who corralled their own 2-time Cy Young winner in Tim Lincecum, and good vet, coming-off-unfortunate injury in Tim Hudson to go with RF Hunter Pence for about $150 million, all total. Even San Diego signed Josh Johnson, the brittle man, hoping to get a recharge in park friendly PETCO before trying to land another payday.

So, Arizona needs to step it up a notch...or just bide time until Hillary gets elected in 2016.

The Trade : Ace for Potential Ace, a vet Bullpen Ace, and Middle Infielder that hits (so far)

Arizona does have limited payroll ability to sign guys in 2014-2015, however, they maybe can entice Detroit, who had bullpen problems, to take a package of veteran closer in J.J. Putz, top pitching prospect 21-year old Archie Bradley, and 22-year old SS/2B Chris Owings.

1) JJ Putz is a decent veteran closer, that could be an option for Detroit. 1 year left on the contract. So no commitment. A 2014 push for World Series...via the motivated vet wanting that title.

2) Bradley is a future ace potential. But that is still to be seen. Yet, as a top 10 prospect, his WAR value probably can't be under the 15-20 range as his floor for 6 seasons. He's 1 year away- or likely midseason - depending on the Arizona development plan, and arbitration clock for monetary reasons.

3) Owings did well in his call up and is very young. Detroit can pair him with Jose Iglesias or Kinsler. Basically, they have a guy that can fill in the middle infield, and hits well enough so far, that maybe he spells Kinsler or picks up Jose Iglesias's slack.

But Arizona gets a top of the rotation horse they know well. They traded him off to Detroit. Now, the Cy Young award winner, is signed and traded back? The new TV revenues will help Arizona out, one can presume, as does revenue sharing system that garnered $27M for the team. Their pitching lineup is better with Scherzer, Corbin, Miley, Cahill, Delgado, and Skaggs. They shop Brandon McCarthy as back end option - getting out from under the contract a bit. And therefore, can do a Scherzer deal.

Of course, this conjecture only works if Arizona values Scherzer for potentially an offset to the LA duo of Kershaw/Greinke, or SF's trio of arms in Bumgardner, Lincecum, and Cain, not necessarily in that order.

Now, is Archie Bradley not potentially a Max Scherzer? Sure. It could happen. But is that going happen immediately in 2014? Or 2015? Is Arizona built to win somewhat today, or are they going to wait, hoping the Dodgers collapse due to age factors? (While they have similar problems on several less meatier contracts...)

Arizona has been kicking the tires on Jeff Samardzija, the 3WAR pitcher, has 4-5WAR potential ace-like stuff. And another year of control to the equation...and a year younger than Scherzer. Yet, Theo & Jed are probably asking for Bradley and Skaggs back at minimum. Does Arizona no good. And it's a poor sell to Diamondbacks fans. A CY Young winner, former AZ stud, easier to spin that trade as a good deal.

For Arizona, it can be ok in the future...but it's gonna be hard to finish .500 because you can't stop the Dodgers' bats at present.

Dombrowski too has multiple ways to do things if cash is not his constraint. But at some point it always is.  Tanaka may not post in 2014...then this idea goes bust!

And then he's back to Choo or Ellsbury as the missing piece at $125million plus. But a Tanaka add will not cost that 1st round pick - even as low as Detroit will pick - and this has a way of detracting those that know minor league talent keeps the major league team alive better.

So Dave: Swap talent, get younger, and add potential ace material and a potentially good bat to your order today. Arizona - you need a top of the rotation guy for at least 4 seasons. Scherzer will do so at a price. And Bradley is just a pop away from being cut open...hopes dashed.

Risk analysis at its finest!

  My Final Analysis

So: 2014 World Series, or bust for Detroit! 

Arizona, wait until Bradley becomes an ace...or spend on the gamble I have laid out.

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK 1961 Inaugural Address: 50 Years since his passing

I was not born when the shots rang out that fell John Fitzgerald Kennedy, this date, 50 years ago. Kennedy was a hopeful man, in a critical time, that was found more wanting of his positive spirit after he perished. He made errors, to be sure, we are but mortal and flawed, but he wanting more for the United States, as this address showed. He was not given the time to make good, alone, on his dreams. Those came under different men that took up the causes he spelled out. And still have to, in order to achieve the measure of his and other presidencies.

So, enjoy this Youtube video. Watch and learn from a fallen leader.

Hitting Instructor Wanted: Barry Lamar Bonds

It's been awhile. Since I could hold my head up high...

Barry Bonds was locked in a battle with Major League Baseball for the last decade. He was followed around by ESPN's Pedro Gomez. The FDA/IRS's Jeff Novitzky made him steroid enemy number #1. BALCO & Barry. Barry & BALCO.  The two were married, clinically. A jilted ex-girlfriend testifying to his lack of performance where it mattered to her; a trainer who had freedom to lose, and little to gain, got incarcerated but stayed mute; and it seemed Bonds marched on to the HR title without missing a beat. But he did...it showed like the steroids bloat that got him on the hot seat.

But this is not a full recounting of the travails of that lost decade. Bonds was found guilty of obstructing justice, and is still on appeal, though he has decided to do home detention/sentence recently. Which might present the opening for a MLB team short on hitting instruction to take a flier on Bonds, the hitting coach.

MLB proper may not allow or concede it is irrelevant to continue to punish a guy who is no longer playing in the game; as they spent plenty of time deriding and defiling the best hitter of his generation. And his numbers, prior to 2000, were 1st ballot HOF despite what some have dreamed up in their heads as reasons to question his abilities. Thereafter, given the reality he took PEDs, his prior achievements are all tarnished. Yet, he proved it still as testing came on-line and close scrutiny undoubtedly curtailed those visits to BALCO. But again, not the focus of this.

MLB's current nemeses are A-Rod in a laughable trial/hearing, and the standing suspension of Ryan Braun. After the craziness behind those two stories, even Bond's travails do not seem remotely close. Moreover, the road to MLB hitting instruction was paved well for Mark McGwire. Matt Williams got a job as a manager after his listing in The Mitchell Report. Jason Giambi still swung a bat in violence in 2013 at 42. Andy Pettitte threw the pill impressively in 2013 at 41.

So, Bonds is due for some redemption. As intelligent as any ballplayer when in his prime, can those playing skills translate to coaching or mentoring young ballplayers?

In a Sports on Earth article, Gwen Knapp recounts several instances where this took place:

  • Jim Warren, one of his personal trainers in the days before his body ballooned, has worked with countless professional athletes and calls Bonds "the hardest-working guy I've ever trained, by far. I've never had anybody work harder than Barry."
  • Teammates knew that Bonds could read situations better than anyone in the game. From the dugout and on deck, he would call a pitch before its release. He picked up on tells like a poker champ. "His baseball intelligence was off the charts," Van Slyke said.
  • Bonds studying a reliever as he warmed up, spotting a vulnerability the way a cat homes in on a wounded bird. "He couldn't throw his slider, it was all over the place, and Barry looks at me and says, 'You think he's going to throw me that slider, when he can't get it over the plate when no one's up there?" Snow said. "And he was right. The guy couldn't throw him a slider, because he didn't have confidence in it. Barry said, 'I'm not even going to look for that pitch.'" Did that help Snow? He shook his head. "I still had to look for it, because I wasn't the hitter Barry was."

It isn't that Bonds was the man you wanted as your best friend when you were teammates. He had mood swings and seemed preoccupied by the trivial and a weight of resentment he now seems free of in his new life and with his cycling girlfriend, who testified against the very thing Barry was accused of doing.
Bonds with his girlfriend and his new athletic endeavor

So it begs to question, can this supreme expert at OBP, SLG and playing left field, have the patience, the teaching skills, and the sticktoitiveness to face down the harshest critiques of those who will choose to see only the Bonds of old?

The hunger of an eager-to-bash media is about that sort of angle. Fans too, that are frustrated with their teams, will vent mercilessly online via Twitter or name-your-outlet. Could a team, such as the Cubs, do the PR campaign well? Take the focus off Bonds, the PED user, and focus it, if the results come, on Bonds, the instructor?

One can hope such things. Bonds has been detached from the game proper for 6 years. His trial has been over for quite a while. The sentence is done (probation, I suppose, remains?). And he might be ready for an entirely different life.

But I guess if you asked him to coach 1 season, he'd come. To prove he can train some talent to be the next Barry Bonds. Sometimes, you don't learn your lessons and gain the wisdom until long after you are defiled beyond forgiveness.

Staind puts a truthful melancholy on what Bonds did:
And everything I can't remember
As fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I've rendered
I've stretched myself beyond my means

 But it's been awhile...

"Now instructing, Barry Lamar Bonds."

Friday, November 15, 2013

2013-14 Hot Stove: The Starting Pitcher Options

Since it would be inordinately difficult to post on 10-15 options in the market, and all the statistical analysis or insights, I have decided to put this up at DOC STOC and below.

It details the following pitchers, their recent numbers and graphics of importance gathered at the typical sources of Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball:
  • Erik Bedard
  • AJ Burnett
  • Scott Feldman
  • Roy Halladay
  • Dan Haren
  • Tim Hudson
  • Phil Hughes
  • Joe Saunders
  • Edison Volquez
This powerpoint shows the basic insights I had about these pitchers and salary expected for them. None are the top tier market setters. (You must download the PPT to get the information correctly (as I used animation to get less slides, but more analysis on them...))

I have also done analysis on Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, Scott Kazmir, and Masahiro Tanaka earlier this year. Those are found here (Garza v. Nolasco) and one for Kazmir plus Erik Bedard.
The man who changed baseball pitching by his surgery: Tommy John

Pitching is a premium commodity. Too many wind up hurt, as 1/3 now undergo Tommy John Surgery. Shoulder surgery on the labrum is more problematic in respect to what the Tommy John surgery success rate stands at now. As such, it seems the thin pitching market will continue on. Pitchers will get nice salaries not based on top-end performance, but potential to continue to pitch. As teams will lock up their gems if they can get to 25 without incident of arm trouble.

Yet, the offense in the league is down. So, if you got a decent enough 4.00 FIP pitcher, it's not so bad. As long as you can score around 4.5-4.7 runs, on average, to support him, wins will come a plenty.

Enjoy the presentation below! DOWNLOAD and view in Powerpoint!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

FA OF Analysis: David Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Rajai Davis

The Tales of the Tape for 4 FA OFs

Curtis Granderson (left) pulls more hits, given Yankee Stadium in 2012-13; Murphy more spray, but power to Left Center in this 275 feet or greater hit/ out chart (red is an out)

It is a constant argument among baseball fans and analysts to find guys that will make their team the big winners for the next season. Today, will breakdown four outfielders that aren't named Choo or Ellsbury.
David Murphy(33 in October), Chris Young(31 in September), Rajai Davis(34 in October) and Curtis Granderson(33 before 2014 season) provide a good swath of potential targets for teams not looking to go $100M plus on the Boras' Megadeals yet consummated.

Granderson, just 1 season plus removed from 40+ homers, is the sexy pickup, a marketing campaign plus accolades and talent. Yankees offered a qualifying offer, which makes him less attractive to teams outside of the protected draft zone, the worst 10 teams in 2013. His more pressing problem: is he able to do what he once did? Can he bound back after a broken hand? His last two months of 2013 were a push: August good - September bad - with lots of strikeouts, few walks, and likely, a ton of frustration.

David Murphy and Chris Young suffered too at the plate, clocking a .227 and .237 BABIP. Rajai Davis had the most average season, as the triple slash of .260/.312/.375. Davis, never blessed with power, is also a few years removed from above league average OBP (.318-.319 was the MLB average, counting those pitchers.)

The Chart above reflects how these player swing at balls outside the zone.  Davis is pretty much a free swinger, and has stayed that way. Murphy and Young are your consistent guys year in and out, Young is well above league average on not swinging at pitches astray. Murphy is as consistent as one can be. Granderson, has progressively gotten worse on swinging at balls out the zone. He could regress back to say 27.5%, but I am betting this could be a product of age decline.

David Murphy, Davis, and Granderson all started out their early careers within the same contact zone of around 90%.  By 2010, though, the pattern broke. Murphy has stayed a good contact man on strikes.  Chris Young seems to have improved as his career went on. Meanwhile, Granderson has slipped the last 3 seasons, becoming a 80% hitter in the zone. This patterns as a slugger that falls in love with jerking the ball out the park. It's not a judgment on the value of power over other things, but take him out of New York, and this flaw may not play well in parks less suited for lefties pulling everything.

Quickest thing: Murphy and Chris Young have BABIP about .075 points of the normal league average. So, regression to the mean is likely in 2014. Chris Young has never had a high BABIP, so his may be a function of other factors.

This decline struck all players. But who improves? The youngest Chris Young, or Murphy, have possibilities with BABIP, higher contact, and consistency with balls not in the zone.

Before 2011, each were likely options based on a range of expectations. Now, in 2013 off-season, it boils down to how you see Chris Young and Davis versus the travails of Granderson, and the ups and downs of Rajai Davis. Looking at the evidence, one can put a better spin on David Murphy if this has told us anything. Granderson would rank 3rd on the list behind Young as an option.

Granderson's age while maybe not as bad in the year 2014, compared to 1984 or 1954, is still on the decline side of a career.

Our last graphic is Davis and Young's spray chart:

 Both are pull side hitters, though Davis seems less likely to ever hit one out past Left Center. Young has some straight away power, but not overwhelming.

The Final Call on OFers

So, if you are in the market for an OF, David Murphy has the best mix of tools, potential luck, and relative patience to get a starting job and make a difference. Chris Young rates next best. Granderson should take the $14.1M and be glad to stay in New York to pull balls to his content. Rajai Davis will stay at it, but I am not expecting big things out of him.